Newport Public Works Director Tim Gross told his city council Monday night that the new city water treatment plant will be completed on time this June, but that the final price tag will be hundreds of thousands of dollars more than planned.
The expensive project was launched, critics say, without a final plan of sufficient detail to ascertain what the plant would actually cost. However, city councilors (most of whom were not serving at the time the plans were set) seem to agree that under the circumstances the plant has been constructed to meet the city’s needs and at a price that is reasonable. They have also praised newly appointed Public Works Director Tim Gross for stepping into the breach to keep rising costs under control and the project on schedule.
Monday evening Gross and Finance Director David Marshal convinced the council to drain the remaining contingency money for the project from the city water fund to finish the project, adding that there may be a possibility that there would be a little left at the end of the project. The last $300,000 of water contingency funds will build a greatly modified water intake system for the plant. It was discovered late in the project’s construction that the lower Big Creek Dam itself is not strong enough to support the water intake system as designed. However Gross told the council that a modified design will work and that its support system of pilings will be installed. He said they struck solid bedrock under the dam which will ensure the assemblage stays put. However Gross has said in the past that he cannot vouch for the stability of the dam in the event of a substantial earthquake.
The water plant was part of a voter approved bond measure that contemplated both a water plant and a new Agate Beach area water tank aimed at improving fire flows in the north end of town. But water plant design confusion and rising costs ate up funds for the tank. Thus far, there has been no strategy adopted about how to fund it. However, the tank is at least being designed, according to Gross. He said he would like to begin construction on it as soon as possible once a funding mechanism is in place. Funding could come from borrowing from other city funds, floating a new bond measure, raising water rates or some other, as yet unnamed, approach.